UPDATE: Pet store owner grateful for new rat law, but …

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Apr 2, 2014 in Rat Answers | Subscribe

The owner of Butte pet store says he’s thankful that commissioners approved a new ordinance allowing licensed businesses like his to sell mice and rats.

But Mark Dawson, owner of the Fish Bowl store on Harrison Avenue, said Thursday that sudden enforcement of the old law a few months ago cost him lots of customers he doubts he will get back. Many bought the rodents to feed their pet snakes.

“The commissioners did a real nice job stepping up and so did (Chief Executive) Matt Vincent,” Dawson said, hours after commissioners approved an updated mice and rat ordinance.

But, he said, “I just don’t see the people that used to come in.”

Commissioners voted 8-0 for the updated ordinance Wednesday night. It will take effect in 30 days and allow licensed pet stores to sell mice, rats, guinea pigs, gerbils and hamsters.

The previous ordinance enacted in 1977 prohibited raising or selling mice in Butte-Silver Bow County.

County animal control officials in December told Dawson he must stop selling mice and rats as of Jan. 1. They said a child had been bitten by a rat they traced back to his store and had no choice but to enforce the law.

Dawson doubts any rat sold from his store bit a child and said he had been selling the rodents for years without ever hearing a word from any county official.

When the Standard reported on the issue in early January, Vincent and commissioners acted swiftly by placing a 90-day moratorium on the law so Dawson could resume selling the rodents while changes were considered.

The new ordinance also allows mice and rats to be used for scientific research, and each household will be allowed to have three of the animals as “feeders” or pets.

Dawson said he’s probably lost 60 percent of his customers and some have told him they are simply raising rats and mice on their own. That is still illegal under the new law if they have more than three at a time.

“That hasn’t stopped them,” Dawson said. “The only thing they (county officials) did was stop me. But I’m glad they passed the new one.”

– Reach Smith at mike.smith@mtstandard.com or 406-496-5511.

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